I was an odd little kid.
When I was 10 or 12 years old I already had a 10-year plan. Before I even hit my teens, I already had a vision for who I wanted to be and the kind of person I wanted to look like when I hit my 20’s.
The road has been more than a little bumpy and, honestly, it’s been painful (lots of tears, too), but I am happy to say that 10-year-old me would have been proud of the person I have become. (It’s pretty cool and pretty lame at the same time, I know. But then I’ve never been cool and I’ve always been lame. So I guess that’s progress.)
Anyways, today I turn 22. Rest assured that:
- I will be playing 22 on repeat all day today, and
- I will be crafting my next 10-year master plan to take over the universe.
But before I can plot my next conquest, I wanted to share a few lessons with you.
Each of these lessons were hard-won. Some were easier battles than the others, but each one is special to me. You may or may not understand what I mean or agree with my thinking, but that’s OK. We each have our demons to vanquish, battles to fight and towers to tear down. But I hope that my list will help you with your own journey, even for just a little bit.
So, here we go.
Lesson 1. How to stay motivated: Build systems. If you want to start a new habit, make them so small that they’re enjoyably easy because eventually it will become boring and a drag. Just because something easy and fun starts becoming hard does not mean that it is not for you. Rather, it just means that you are approaching the sticking point where you test your mettle and figure out what you’re made of.
Lesson 2. Focus on the process. The focus isn’t on the task itself but on the habit of doing the task regularly. A goal is good, but it’s the journey toward that that makes you stronger. A world champion trains like a world champion, way before that medal is hung around their neck.
Lesson 3. How to figure out what you want to do when you graduate: Do a bit of research so you know what questions to ask, then get off the couch. Talk to people who have the job you’re interested in, who used to have the job, who worked at the company and who are in the industry. Work on specific, measurable projects to build the necessary skills for that job, whether it is a personal project or an internship.
Lesson 4. How to be contented at your job: Work on your purpose outside of work. If you’re at a good company with people that you like but the job sucks the life out of you, don’t quit just yet. Work on your side project while keeping your day job. Only quit when your side income comes close to or equals your day job.
Lesson 5. How to be content: Teach yourself to love what you do. Whatever it is – whether it is scrubbing toilets, manipulating spreadsheets, lugging boxes or selling cars – there is something to learn. If anything, you learn the skill of appreciating all circumstances you may be in – and that is priceless.
Lesson 6. How to be happier than most millenials: Be contented and unsatisfied at the same time. Remember, the world doesn’t owe you a job just because you graduated with perfect GPA. Appreciate the jobs you get, no matter how menial (see Lesson #4), but work your ass off on the side to build your dream.
Lesson 7. To get to your goals, be willing to give up the typical millenial lifestyle. Be OK with not looking like your favourite Insta-celebrities with their Daniel Wellington watches, Yves Saint-Laurent bags and Yeezy kicks.
It’s OK to have a budget and say that you can’t afford to eat out that day, because you’re paying your way through university.
It’s OK to bike and not drive your own car because you want to save money towards your first condo.
It’s OK to stay at home and not to go out every week because you’d rather be with your family.
It’s OK to eat out by yourself and give yourself time to think about your latest project.
It’s OK to buy cheap clothes from Costco if it means you get to go on that trip to Europe in a few months.
Lesson 8. How to become confident: Know your worth then increase it. You may or may not be an awesome person now… But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve yourself. Draw confidence from the fact that you’re an unfinished piece of art, that the best is yet to come. Remember, confidence isn’t inborn – it is a product of practice, just like charisma isn’t inborn but is a product of increasing your confidence.
Lesson 9. The simplest way to have the choice of retiring at 30 years old: Work at a job, live on $1500 – $1800 a month and save the rest of your money. It may be very un-sexy and boring (see Lesson 7) but I made a spreadsheet to crunch the numbers – it’s possible. (Caveat: I am not suggesting that you stop working at 30, live by the beach and pick seashells all day. Instead, “retiring” means that you have a choice to do whatever work you want, no matter how crazy it is and even if that means becoming a professional DOTA player.)
Lesson 10. It’s never the perfect time so just start. It’s never the perfect time to go see the world, start your business or get into that relationship. You will never know enough. Your ducks will never be lined up in a row. Just because the traffic lights will never all be green doesn’t mean you should never leave home. Take a look at where you want to go, then just go.
Lesson 11. Create every day because there is no perfect time (See above). Write. Sing. Compose. Capture. Draw. Paint. Produce. If you only make 1 amazing thing out of every 10 that you make, then you’d better work on 100 so you can get the 10 that are good.
Lesson 12. What to do if school bores you: Have a side project. Read books. Take advantage of the time you have. School is when you learn to manage yourself and your time – so learn what you can in as little time as possible and spend the rest of it pursuing what interests you.
Lesson 13. How to become mentally tough: See the positive side of every situation. Because they are there. What stands in the way becomes the way. The obstacle is the way. It’s actually really hard to be an optimist but if you can train yourself to do this, then there is nothing that life can throw at you that you cannot overcome.
Lesson 14. Have an abundance mentality. There’s more than enough money and success to go around. Life is an all-you-can-eat buffet. So be free with your ideas, your advice, your time and your help. Give, especially when the other person cannot give back to you.
Lesson 15. Focus is a lifestyle, not a one-off workout. Just like you won’t expect to be jacked if you only eat right one day and live waste a life the other 6 days, don’t expect to have lazer-focus on an exam if you haven’t been doing any focused studying the past semester. You have to train your focus muscles, just like you train your triceps.
Lesson 16. If you work through exhaustion, you’re not being effective. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that you’re being lazy with your planning and your efforts. Hustling isn’t about staying up till 12 AM every day working on your “company”. Hustling is about giving your 100% when you say you are working, and then giving your 100% when you say you will be resting. Remember that the biggest part of your brain – your subconscious mind – is at its best when your conscious mind is at rest.
Lesson 17. Only see constraints. There are no restraints. A restraint tells you that you can’t succeed. A constraint tells you must overcome to succeed.
Lesson 18. Learn to become interested in people. Every person is better than you in at least one thing. Learn from them. Listen to them. Walk in their shoes. Empathize and learn what it feels like to be them. The world is full of people and you will never escape them. So learn to thrive with others.
Lesson 19. Be effective before becoming efficient. Ask the right questions before trying to get to the right answers. A right answer to a wrong question is still the wrong answer. An efficient way to solve an ineffective process is still inefficient.
Read the last paragraph again and let that sink in.
Lesson 20. Grit is more important than talent. Someone who has more talent only means that they start a step or two ahead. In fact, talent can even be the downfall of the talented because it breeds complacency. So be thankful for your lack of talent… Then with your dogged determination, work your ass off of and leave them in the dust .
Lesson 21. You can only be truly joyful if you have experienced pain. You can only enjoy relaxation if you work hard. Adversity breeds strength, grit and determination. Pain breeds an appreciation for things. Hard work sows the seed for satisfaction. Train yourself to enjoy hard work.
Lesson 22. Labels are BS. They don’t matter. You don’t have to be what others expect you to be or say you are – figure yourself out then keep working to become the person you want to be. And no, you don’t have to have a company, or be a founder or an entrepreneur to be cool. What matters more is that you are DOING something. When given the choice, always choose to do rather than to be.
Here’s to another 22 years of laughter and tears. Cheers!